Yesterday I returned to Lari with the whole family to take part in the annual Cherry Festival. We arrived late afternoon and the weather was perfect as the hot midday sun was low in the sky and it’s warm rays gave the town a beautiufl glow which was only outshone by the beautiful cherries on display.
The Sagre delle Ciliegie di Lari, the annual Cherry Festival, has been a longstanding tradition in Lari since 1957 and celebrates the cultivation of their prized cherries from the nearby Pisan hillside. The tradition of cherry production in the Pisan Hills dates back several centuries.
The festival is held over two weekends usually at the end of May or early June, depending on the harvest and it’s a wonderful opportunity to visit Lari and its beautiful territory. At the festival, local artisans sell their produce that has been picked that very morning and visitors can sample more than 20 varieties of cherries. Beautiful stalls line the streets that surround the central castle and the main square. The sea of red fresh fruit is stunning as each stall competes to win the coveted prize of ‘Best in Show’ for the best display. Here you can also buy baked goods and jams, all featuring the cherry as the protagonist. Our favourite were the Frittelle di Ciliegie (Cherry Fritters)! We did go back for seconds and also happened to be given another half dozen by the lovely Signora Lucia Martelli as we were leaving due to me obviously raved about how good they were!
The main prize at the end of the festival is the ‘Ciliegio d’Oro’, the Golden Cherry which is awarded to the best cherry variety. To win this honour a strict criteria must be adhered to!
The cultivation of the cherries in this region comprises of not only Lari but also Cevoli, Usigliano, Lavaiano, Perignano, San Ruffino di Lari and the Boschi di Lari. The tradition is demonstrated by the presence of 13 native cherry tree varieties, which, combined with the particular soils and the climate, give the Lari cherries their famed reputation. Another important factor is the harvesting expertise, the conditioning and packaging skills and techniques that local producers have been able to safeguard and hand down from one generation to another.
The queen of the Cherry Festival is the Marchiana cherry, known for her flavour, perfect colour and form but unfortunately this year she was a no-show due to the unexpected hot Spring climate. Other varieties of the region are la Papalina, la Gambolungo, la Morella, la Usigliano, la Giardino, la Siso, la Crognola and la Cuore, to name a few.
The festival also features artistic and cultural events and is certainly a great excuse to get away for the weekend and discover Lari.
I also had the pleasure of catching up with some of the people who helped make the May Issue of the magazine so special, Andrea Casini from In Lari Photo & Shop who contributed the beautiful cherry images and the Martelli family who once again showed their very generous hospitality by inviting us to stay for dinner. It was very exciting to see my magazine featured in both of their windows!
Matteo and Thomas were also very happy to meet the Martelli’s two cats and Lola the turtle!
You can read more about Lari in the May issue of This Tuscan Life – download from the link below.